Hello my lovely and ever responsive readers! How has been your week so far? Let me guess, exciting? Hmmmm! Lovely? Stressful? Smiles! I have gone on the search to ensure I am gender sensitive. Some of you have accused me of interviewing only male scholars. So, I decided to prove you wrong.
It is my greatest pleasure to introduce to you, my very first female, beautiful brain. Eze Nwamaka Antoinette is a Medical Laboratory Scientist from University of Nigeria, Nsukka. She is also a Commonwealth scholar. When you talk of beauty and brains. In fact, let me not boast too much. You can confirm that yourself with both the picture and the interview.
As a child, I knew I was going to become a scientist. I gradually nurtured a deep interest in science.
Abigael Ibikunle of Edugist: Please share with Edugist, a little about your background.
Eze Nwamaka Antoinette: My name is Eze Nwamaka Antoinette from Udi, Enugu state. I had my primary education at Learningfield School Lagos and my secondary education at Federal Government College, Ijanikin Lagos.
For my tertiary education, I decided to go back home (the East) and after two jamb examination attempts, I eventually gained admission into the University of Nigeria, Nsukka to study Medical Laboratory Science. I can proudly say I am a Lioness.
In 2016, I graduated with a first-class degree and I was the best graduating student for my department (Medical Laboratory Science) and Faculty (Health Sciences). It was one of my proudest moment and my realization of the outcome of hard work and prayers.
After my undergraduate studies, in 2017 I undertook my statutory one-year internship at Chevron Nigeria limited Hospital Lagos. My training at Chevron was invaluable. In 2018, I was fortunate to be a recipient of the commonwealth shared scholarship.
With the Commonwealth scholarship, I recently completed my master’s program in Public Health at the University of Warwick.
AI: Were there any motivating factor(s) that influenced your choice of discipline and institution?
EN: Yes, a lot influenced my choice of discipline.
As a child, I knew I was going to become a scientist. I gradually nurtured a deep interest in science. It is quite funny whenever I recall that my first encounter with science was Dexters Laboratory,” a cartoon based on science.
This goes to show the influence of early-life exposure on a child’s future. My interest in the medical world was nurtured gradually, as I watched Doctors without Borders documentary.
No, the fancy white vest and the Médecins San Frontières logo, the health workers had on didn’t trigger my interest. It was their selflessness. Their willingness to travel to any part of the world to help out strangers who were in need.
Also, during my undergraduate studies, I was blessed with role models and lecturers. They laid good foundation for my interest in Public Health. My family were and are still really supportive of my choices.
However, the factors that influenced my choice of institution were not as myriad as the ones for my choice of discipline. Especially for the choice of University for my undergraduate studies.
It was majorly influenced by location and the school where I had a better chance of gaining admission. But these factors were different for my choice of University for my postgraduate. Due to the opportunity given to me by the Commonwealth Commission, I settled for the University of Warwick. And this was because of its research reputation and the module structure for public health.
Overall, there were so many factors. But I kept reminding myself that I alone will eventually live with the consequences of these decisions. That is why, despite the advice from mentors and family members, and personal research, I did the decision making myself.
AI: There are two major skills that every student must possess: COMPETENCE and PERFORMANCE. While competence revolves around skill acquisition, performance is much more concerned about skills application. It is believed that most graduates are competent because their academic performance testifies to this, but they are performance-challenged. This poor performance ipso facto hinders them from getting lucrative jobs in the labour market. What can you say about this assertion?
EN: To some extent, this might be true. The labour market runs by so many rules including “survival of the fittest”. Being fit in this context synonymously means being able to perform. Relying on your academic performance (competence) might not get you far. Eventually, when you get that job, your academic performance might be insignificant at some stage on your career path.
However, our labour market in Nigeria is also ruled by some other non-conventional rules. For example, Man know Man. That is the reason I said that the statement is somewhat true. So, making a determinative statement that graduates are unemployed because they are performance-challenged, might be a fallacious argument.
AI: What do you think is responsible for competence without performance? Please suggest ways of improving the performance level of university students and graduates.
EN: There are so many factors that are responsible for competence without performance. I can vaguely classify them into two.
The system based or upstream factors and Individual or downstream factors.
System based factors include management incapacity, outdated curriculum and lack of infrastructure. For example, a graduate of a laboratory-based course finishes with an excellent result. But he/she can only testify to just one or two main practical, during his or her undergraduate studies.
This could be due to the lack of appropriate equipment or re-agents to translate knowledge into practise. Consequently, this student won’t be able to adequately perform the task of a scientist (performance-challenged).
While the Individual or downstream factors are factors that hinder maximum performance due to individuals actions. However, one might not be able to weigh the effects of these factors. But having the system-based factors resolved, might have the capacity to improve performance.
If these infrastructures are in place even those not interested in studying might develop an interest. Provisions should be made to make learning appealing and convenient for students. The likes of school internet, electricity, security and library resource should be made available. Students in Nigeria suffer negative consequences of the lack of these structures. Especially with regards to health and wellbeing.
Also, we should try not to rely solely on what is taught in the classroom. Do not relegate yourself to what is taught in the classroom. It won’t get you that far. Learn to groom yourself, no one else will do it for you. It is not solely the University’s job. The internet has made self-development quite easy, use it wisely. Moreover, the dynamic of performance is changing. It was acceptable to be a technocrat or acquiring skills just in a particular field. However, I believe the contemporary definition of performance has evolved.
You cannot be a Jack of all trade but just be aware of other things. Overall, both the upstream and downstream factors should be resolved. This is to increase both the competence and performance of graduates. Like any intervention, tackling one and neglecting the other might even lead to negative feedback on competence and performance.
AI: Achievement in life transcends one’s personal efforts. There were people who, during your programme, rendered some assistance that made your dreams a reality. Who are specific persons whose contribution you can’t forget in your first-class feat?
EN: This is a hard one. I think I should have a book of gratitude because the list is a long one. But to mention a few, my family members have always been my stronghold. My Lecturers at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and mentors. And also, this list can never be complete without mentioning my classmates (MLS 2016 class) and colleagues. Most importantly God has been really faithful.
AI: As a first-class graduate, are you currently gainfully employed?
EN: I am enrolled to serve my father’s land. But I am currently working on a funded research with a team from the University of Warwick.
AI: Do you think your grades have or is giving you any major advantage over other graduates with lesser grades?
EN: Yes, it did. It gave me a great platform but at some point, I had to prove my worth. For example, in some applications that are point-based, having a first-class gives you higher points for academic qualification. But there are other criteria I have to meet. So even with a first-class degree, if I did not meet other criteria, the degree won’t get me that far. However, this does not mean graduates with a second-class degree don’t become high flyers.
AI: For students who aspire to graduate with outstanding grade like yours, what would you advise them?
EN: Study, burn the midnight candle. However, note that learning process and the path to success is not a loner’s path. Study with friends! Share information! You cannot achieve it alone! Learn from your colleagues and tutor your colleagues who need help. Most importantly;
Plan and strategize, re-plan and re-strategize, keep going, never give up!!!!!!!”.
These words sound cliché but when the time of adversity comes (because it will) try to remember that statement.
Make good friends, friends who motivate you. It was Henry Ford who said a good friend is one who brings out the best in you. And most importantly Pray!!!
AI: What would you advise the government to do to improve the standard of our education system?
EN: Education is invaluable and also a determinant of other aspects of an individuals life (including health). Therefore, more focus and investment should be pulled into the Education system in Nigeria. We do have human resources in Nigeria to deliver world-class education. I believe the shortfalls of the education system in Nigeria are the inadequacies in the social infrastructure.
We need infrastructures that can compete globally. The government expenditure on education (7% of GDP) in Nigeria is below the 26% of national budget recommended by the United Nation. The percentage of the GDP spent on the education system should be increased. Although, pumping in more money to the education system can’t solve all the problems. It is however a start. Nigeria’s education system has great potential if wielded properly.
AI: Any other thing you would like to share?
EN: There is a popular statement by a roman philosopher Seneca that: Luck is what happens when Preparation meets opportunity. I have always found this useful. And to all students and graduates do not stop. Keep pushing and be diligent, so that when opportunity comes you will be ready.